In my daily work with emerging growth companies, I often ask founders, CEOs and CMOs what their most pressing marketing problem or need is. I’m no longer surprised by the number who respond with the knee jerk, “We need a tagline!” I know that they don’t, but who doesn’t aspire to the branding ubiquity and cultural impact of “The Ultimate Driving Machine?,” “Intel Inside” or “Just Do It”?
Brilliant taglines are rare …and largely unnecessary for most companies. They are the final creative fillip on a mass-marketing campaign. I believe that t is critical that emerging growth companies, start-ups and even many mature companies resist the “Tyranny of the Tagline.” While I have nothing against a great tag, it should be close to the last element of a marketing plan. There are many more pressing and more effective marketing foundation elements that should be in place before time and attention is devoted to creating a world-class tagline.
Here are five things start-ups and growth companies need to achieve long before a tagline:
- Market intelligence and customer knowledge: It is more common than one might think for a company to have incomplete understanding of the market they are in or the precise customer they are trying to serve. Before any significant marketing activity occurs, a disciplined approach to building market intelligence and developing deep customer knowledge is a requirement.
- Positioning and messaging: It’s important to know what you want to say before you say anything. So, once the company is convinced of its market, knows its target customers and believes it has the right product or service to meet a current or future need, the next step is to develop credible, engaging and differentiated positioning, and a hierarchy of messages that support that positioning.
- Audience and ecosystem: With the previous steps completed, companies can take a wide-bore look at the audience that it needs to reach though its messaging. In addition to end-users, companies must consider the whole ecosystem of individuals and organizations that can impact a market. The ecosystem often includes “economic customers” (the entities that actually pay for a product or service --not always end user), purchasing decision influencers, early product champions, market thought-leaders, channel influencers, industry groups and governmental/regulatory agencies.
- Media channels: There is a wide-ranging portfolio of media channels, platforms and conduits that reaches every corner of a company’s target audience. Owned, earned and paid media channels should be explored and prioritized for use in a company’s marketing mix to build a big-picture view of the available opportunities. The media list should should be further winnowed to achieve strategic focus and to ensure that the marketing team can consistently engage or activate the selected channels based on human and financial resources, as well as market dynamics.
- Marketing process and system: This may not the sexiest part of marketing but it is critical if a company wishes to maximize its demand generation activities. A clear process, and the systems to support it, for making demand generation and lead conversion effective, efficient, repeatable and measurable is a vital component to a well-integrated marketing effort. (BTW, I believe awareness, education, nurture, service/support and upsell/resell all can be integrated into this system in some fashion…but that’s another post entirely).
A few beers, some pizza and a wild brainstorming session to cook up what might be the next great tagline is a fairly appealing dream on many days. However, time, intelligence and creative energy is best first spent on building a rock solid marketing foundation. Doing that work well will provides the underpinnings of a pro marketing campaign that, maybe someday, can support the emotional kick of a tremendous tagline.